Theoretical perspectives in sociology


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Theoretical perspectives in sociology

  1. 1. Functionalist perspective (Emile Durkheim) • Focuses on: society as a set of interrelated parts that work together to produce a stable social system • Main assumptions: society is held together through consensus; most people agree on what is best for society and will work together to ensure that the social system runs smoothly • Topics of interest: division of work in the family; functions served by education
  2. 2. Conflict perspective ( Karl Marx) • Focuses on: forces in society that promote competition and change • Main assumptions: conflict in society arises over competition for scarce resources; social change is an inevitable feature of society • Topics of interest: decision making in families; relationships among racial groups; labor disputes
  3. 3. Interactionist perspective ( Max Weber) • Focuses on: how individuals interact with one another in society • Main assumptions: individuals attach meanings to their own actions and to the actions of others; interaction btwn ppl takes place thru use of symbols • Topics of interest: child development; relationships within groups; mate selection
  4. 4. Émile Durkheim (French) (1858-1917) • Founded sociology as an academic discipline • Famous for his study on suicides (1897) • Use of statistics in sociology • Key concepts: social facts, social structure social solidarity, collective conscience, mechanical and organic solidarity, anomie • Structural/functionalist theorist
  5. 5. Karl Marx (German) (1818-1883) • Founder of political / economic theory of socialism (communism) • Considered the founder of the conflict perspective • Wrote the Communist Manifesto and co wrote Das Kapital (with Friedrich Engels) • Key concepts: proletariat, bourgeoisie, capitalists, social class, dialectics (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)
  6. 6. Max Weber (German) (1864-1920) • Believed that sociologist could never capture the reality of society but should focus on ideal types that best capture the essential features of aspects of social reality • Key concepts: bureaucracy, verstehen, rationalization of the modern world, people are becoming prisoners of new technology, loss of individuality
  7. 7. Feminist Theory Feminist theory is one of the major contemporary sociological theories, which analyses the status of women and men in society with the purpose of using that knowledge to better women's lives. Feminist theory is most concerned with giving a voice to women and highlighting the various ways women have contributed to society. Critical Theory Critical theory is a type of social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep us from a full and true understanding of how the world works. Labeling Theory Labeling theory is one of the most important approaches to understanding deviant and criminal behavior. It begins with the assumption that no act is intrinsically criminal. Definitions of criminality are established by those in power through the formulation of laws and the interpretation of those laws by police, courts, and correctional institutions.
  8. 8. Social Learning Theory Social learning theory is a theory that attempts to explain socialization and its effect of the development of the self. It looks at the individual learning process, the formation of self, and the influence of society in socializing individuals. Social learning theory is commonly used by sociologists to explain deviance and crime. Structural Strain Theory Robert K. Merton developed the structural strain theory as an extension of the functionalist perspective on deviance. This theory traces the origins of deviance to the tensions that are caused by the gap between cultural goals and the means people have available to achieve those goals. Rational Choice Theory Economics plays a huge role in human behaviour. That is, people are often motivated by money and the possibility of making a profit, calculating the likely costs and benefits of any action before deciding what to do. This way of thinking is called rational choice theory.
  9. 9. Game Theory Game theory is a theory of social interaction, which attempts to explain the interaction people have with one another. As the name of the theory suggests, game theory sees human interaction as just that: a game. Sociobiology Sociobiology is the application of evolutionary theory to social behaviour. It is based on the premise that some behaviours are at lease partly inherited and can be Social Exchange Theory One way of analyzing social interaction is through the social exchange theory. This model interprets society as a series of interactions that are based on estimates of rewards and punishments. According to this view, our interactions are determined by the rewards or punishments that we receive from others and all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis. The theory has its roots in economics as well as sociology and psychology.
  10. 10. Chaos Theory Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, however it has applications in several disciplines, including sociology and other social sciences. In the social sciences, chaos theory is the study of complex non-linear systems of social complexity. It is not about disorder, but rather is about very complicated systems of order. Social Phenomenology Social phenomenology is an approach within the field of sociology that aims to reveal what role human awareness plays in the production of social action, social situations and social worlds. In essence, phenomenology is the belief that society is a human construction.